Posted on July 21, 2020

In the “good old days” — aka, January — the shared office multifunction printer (MFP) or copier was accessible to virtually everyone in the office, all of whom used the device’s touchscreens or buttons to select the functions and features needed to complete print, copy, or scan jobs. What the COVID-19 era has brought into sharp relief, though, is that those frequently touched surfaces could be breeding grounds for germs.  In fact, CDC issued guidance includes the instructions, “Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, printer/copiers, drinking fountains, and doorknobs.”

As firms reopen and employees return to the office and once again use shared devices, employers and employees are faced with how to perform these necessary functions while limiting interaction with the control surfaces of frequently used devices. Fortunately, there are mobile device applications that can provide a touchless way to carry out those tasks to combat the spread of COVID-19 and make the workplace healthier and safer from other seasonal germs or viruses.

Today’s shared printers and copiers are endpoints on an organization’s network. Using a Wi-Fi connection and the appropriate app on a worker’s smartphone or tablet, any document stored on the mobile device or in a cloud storage service can be sent to a network printing device just as if it was sent from a networked PC. In today’s security-conscious world, though, it’s common for IT departments to control network device access by requiring employees to authenticate themselves before releasing a print or scanning a document. Historically, this involved entering a passcode or PIN, which meant the worker still needed to touch the device’s control panel. However, newer technologies mean the availability of authentication methods that don’t need touch interactions with the device, such as proximity cards or tokens.

Technology eliminated one touchpoint, but any changes to the way the document is printed, such as changing from black and white to color or single-sided to duplex, or choosing a different finishing option, still required touching the device panel or buttons. That, now, is also changing with the availability of mobile device apps like Ricoh’s Smart Device Connector, which allow employees to not only enter their credentials but also make changes to the way the document is printed from their smartphones. These kinds of apps can also be used to set up a copy, scan, or fax job, all without ever touching the copier.

An employee’s mobile device can connect via Bluetooth, Near Field Connection (NFC), a Wi-Fi access point, or direct Wi-Fi access. Once the print device is accessed the employee has a private virtual operator panel (VOP), thus removing the risk of commonly shared touch panels. With this private VOP they can:

  • Enter their user ID and password to gain access.
  • Specify the number of copies they want.
  • Choose black and white or color.
  • Change the paper size.
  • Select whether the output is to be single-sided or duplexed.
  • Select scanning and choose the file format, scan size, and resolution
  • Scan a document and send it directly to the mobile device or a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, or email or fax the scanned document to an address in the mobile device’s address book.

The Ricoh Smart Device Connector also provides access to the Ricoh Interactive Whiteboard so that information stored on the mobile device or in the cloud can be displayed to a group without the need to touch the control panel of the whiteboard.

Another unique method of touchless access is voice recognition technology. Sharp’s MFP Voice uses Amazon Alexa to let the employee control the print device. By using voice and natural language to choose what function and features to use, the need to touch the copier’s operator panel is again eliminated. Users can change many optional settings through voice control, such as whether to print in color or black and white, make simplex or duplex copies, choose staple finishing, or other settings on the device.

Organizations and institutions emerging from the anxiety and health caution that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about will find touchless print, copy, and scan solutions helpful in keeping employees and clients safe and confident when returning to the office. Choosing the right touchless solution doesn’t have to be complicated. Centric Business Systems can help you select solutions like Ricoh’s Smart Device Connector, Sharp’s MFP Voice, or others that will work best for your situation.